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The RadioShack-Nissan team leaders flank Bruyneel
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On the improbably named Boulevard du Rock 'n Roll, Johan Bruyneel introduced his own fab five on Friday afternoon, as the leaders of the new RadioShack-Nissan squad met the press ahead of the team's official launch in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg.
The merger of the Leopard Trek and RadioShack squads has led to the formation of a super group of sorts, and the main players from each side – Andy and Fränk Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Andreas Klöden and Chris Horner – sang from the same song sheet under the watchful gaze of the svengali Bruyneel.
After experiencing first hand the creative differences of Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong at the 2009 Tour de France, Bruyneel is aware of the need for harmony in a team filled with potential front men.
"It's always a challenge," he said. "Sometimes managing egos can be difficult but at the end of the day the team's goal is the most important. So when you have two riders who are contenders, one will know if the other is better, and I also have the experience to recognise that."
All going to plan, the team leader at the Tour de France will be Andy Schleck, and he is looking forward to having his challenge buttressed by the support of the veterans Klöden and Horner.
"I consider myself still as a young rider and having guys with a lot of experience like Chris and Andreas [on the team] is a great honour for me," said Schleck. "And it can go both ways – some races I will work for them and some races they will work for me. I feel really confident going into the season to ride with these guys."
With a surfeit of time trialling miles in the 2012 Tour route, there had been some speculation that Schleck might be tempted to try his luck at the somewhat more mountainous Giro d'Italia, but he dismissed the idea – "For me, it's not the Tour de France, and it never will be."
To win the Tour, however, Schleck is aware that his performances against clock and on descents will have to improve. "It's a question I always get asked," he said ruefully. "I won't win the Tour in a time trial, but I can lose it, so I have to try to avoid losing that much time. I've shown in the past that I'm not a really bad time triallist, maybe I'm just not on the same level as I climb, so I've got to make that gap smaller."
Fränk Schleck was keen to emphasise that he and his new teammates had already been on the same wavelength even when on different squads. "A big advantage is that Leopard never had any issues with RadioShack, we never had any trouble in races," he said. "I've known Chris and Andreas for a long time and we've always got on very well with one another. It's a great thing that's happened – two strong teams have merged together."
While the Schlecks will be the front men, Chris Horner will be among the riders tapping out the rhythm at the head of the peloton in the high mountains of the Tour. "I'd much rather help a rider win the Tour than finish third or fourth or fifth or tenth or something like that," he said.
The veteran Klöden admitted that he still harbours some solo ambitions of his own, but like Horner, is happy to put his shoulder to the wheel as he has done for Armstrong, Contador and Jan Ullrich in the past. "For sure, my dream is to win a grand tour – the Giro, Vuelta or Tour, it doesn't matter for me," he said. "I think I have the potential for this. I've had a lot of bad luck but maybe the dream comes true, we'll see."
And if he hadn't crashed out in 2011, would both Schlecks have made the podium? "Ha, maybe the Schlecks were lucky," he joked. "But now we have a nice team and I'm happy to be part of that."